Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Dream, The Doubts, The Key

10" x 8" watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140 lb hot press paper

I. The Dream:

I had a dream a few nights ago.

I was standing beside an easel. My online artist friend Linda (L.W.) Roth of the "Out on a Limb" blog, was about to show me how she paints on canvas. She put brush to canvas, and as she brought the brush down I heard a musical sound.

I heard a sort of sing-song, "PNT-ING!"

The sound was coming either from the brush or the paint itself as she executed the stroke.

"What was that!?"

"What, yours doesn't do that?" she asked.

She put more paint on her brush. Then, watching me out of the corner of her eye, she brought down the brush again.

"PNT!", it rang.

Without lifting the brush from the canvas, she pulled the brush back up to finish the stroke.


I was speechless.

Just then, I heard another sound.


I jumped. Looking towards the sound, I saw another online artist friend, Hallie, of the "Arting Around in SOVA" blog, standing next to an easel with one of her paintings on it.


The sounds were coming from the painting itself! Hallie was doing nothing at all.

I asked her about it and she yawned and said, "yeah, they do that every now and then. Don't yours?"

And that is when I woke up.

II. The Doubts.

The painting at the top of the page took many mornings, in the hour before work, to do. I parked across the street from these two storefronts in South Miami, and painted in my car, en plein air conditioning. I'm not one for quick watercolors. I layer and layer.

In truth I was disappointed at how it turned out (although my brutally honest family seemed to like it).

After painting the reddish-brown jewelry store, I read Frank Eber's stark reminder that I should not "try to do too much" with the watercolors. I felt it was already overworked but I had invested time in it, so I continued with the picture and finished it.

Then I sailed far afield in the world wide web and felt that everything I saw was better than what I had done. I had a crisis of confidence. That's when I had the dream.

So I searched further and discovered the SGVA blog which has short posts containing art quotes, definitions, and tips. I found a Wolf Kahn quote there:

"The practice of art should have an effect not only the public, but even more importantly, on the artist himself, by enlarging his sphere of freedom... Each picture is valuable only insofar as it contributes to this development, because it enables the artist to go on in a freer, larger way to his next picture."

And I had learned a lot from this picture. I had struggled with perspective. I wrestled with values, with changing light and shadow, and coordination of color. I successfully inserted a figure in the scene that I had sketched from life in my Moleskine. And I worked a bit larger than my usual.

I found this quote at the SGVA Blog too, by Ira Glass:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work... It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.

And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I was cured.

III. The Key.

We are a family of artists. We endure the same struggles and enjoy the same intrinsic rewards. We have the joy of seeing - really seeing - the world, and then attempting to portray it our own way. Knowing this helps me through the rough spots.

I am constantly reminded of this connection because of two consistent resources that I've been dying to share. You may know about these already. But maybe you don't. And if you don't, you are in for a treat. So here they are:

A. "Artists Helping Artists". This is the only internet radio show that I know of that is by artists, for artists, and addresses artist's concerns, hopes, and desires. There is an emphasis on marketing, but also many featured artists. It is inspiring and enlightening to listen to this show and Leslie Saeta is a creative, knowledgeable and personable host. The easiest place to listen is here, where you can find all past episodes too. I usually listen in my car! The blog to accompany the show is here.

B. Subscribe to "Robert Genn's Twice-Weekly Letter". It's free and arrives in your e-mail. It is always a good read, with useful tips for artists, and the personal experiences and anecdotes of Canadian artist Robert Genn. You can subscribe here.

Art talk comes to me! What can be better?

You needn't thank me. What else is family for?

{pssst..I was given some blog awards but I need to gather the paparazzi anyway, so next time..)